Friday, December 28, 2012

Lush or loners?

I am aware how landscapes here in the desert differ in so many ways from those in temperate gardens. Obviously the palette of plants available is totally unique. But back home in the UK we place great emphasis on plant associations - putting together plants that look good alongside each other, or even growing intimately together. Such plants must have a similar display time and compliment or contrast each other in various ways to create little 'plant pictures' that contribute to the overall border or garden. Flower show designers are great at this - artists with plants, creating perfect partners for these horticultural showcases. The effect is nearly always lush and profuse - not surprisingly when we consider the UK weather!

Familiar herbaceous perennials but in close proximity and harmony

An intimate mixture of foliage and flowers


Echinacea purpurea and Kniphofia - prairie style
One of my favourite combinations of foliage, Berberis ' Orange Rocket' with Weigela loymansii 'Aurea' and W. 'Foliis Purpureis'

Iris and Eschscholtzia growing freely in a countryside verge
Humulus lululus 'Aureus' amazingly looking good against a pink rose - a daring mix - pink and yellow!

Anchusa 'Loddon Royalist' and Gaillardia - the effect relies on similar flowering times

Rhododendron 'Roseum Elegans' and Digitalis 'Pam's Split' - very Chelsea!

However here in the desert, designers more often emphasise the shape of the individual plants. So many arid plants are spiky or have other distinct shapes and the desert style landscape allows for generous spacing to exhibit each plant's unique shape. Colour is less important but shape, shadows and highlights become quite important in the brilliant sunshine.

I run past this front garden regularly and it always pleases me.

Specimen Ecinocactus lining a footpath (What numbskull put the irrigation controller there?)

Euphorbia millii - perfect buns!
Agave and Penstemon parryi - the latter a surprising desert plant

Anyone ID this for me - a Ferocactus maybe gracilis or cylindricus?
Russelia equisetiformis - the firecracker plant - great with space to spread

Muhlenbergia rigens widely spaced for shape and shadows - I love the patterns

Opuntia basilaris - a must for my new yard!
Only rarely are desert plants grouped close together and when this is done, the effect is quite different but can be quite dramatic. One of the most heavily planted but spectacular desert gardens is that at the Huntington Library - check back to my blog last year to read more and see all the pictures.

Desert Garden at the Huntington Museum

Agave geminiflora block planted
Tightly packed barrel cactus - they absolutely glow in the sun!

Aloe aristata - such crisp outlines

A window box overflowing with succulents - not very sustainable but striking colours and shapes


1 comment:

  1. The architectural merits of some succulents are so high that they look great, and perhaps look better on their own. But combined carefully with other plants or in repetition they look great too.

    Some very beautiful colour and plant combinations there btw, makes me long for summer even more now!

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